Bowtie Catering Co. sits in an unassuming strip mall on the south side of Bend, nestled in between a liquor store and a video poker place—not exactly a spot where you would expect to find carefully-prepared dishes and a menu curated for a Pacific Northwest palate. Still, that's what's happening.
Bowtie's space on Hwy 97 was originally used as a commercial kitchen for its catering events, but after word of mouth started spreading, its owners opened the space to the public.
Co-owner and business manager Sanda Costello took an interesting path to running an upscale catering company in Central Oregon. "I came to the States from Romania in 2005 as a college exchange student," says Costello. "I was studying environmental engineering and hardly spoke any English, so I started working as a server/bartender to try to better my linguistic skills."
The other owner of the space is Chef Gene Soto. He trained at Western Culinary Institute in Portland before heading to the Oregon coast to be trained even further by Rob Pounding and Jeff James, the executive chef and executive sous chef at Salishan Lodge. After a detour in Washington, Soto served as executive chef at Deschutes Brewery from 2000 until 2007. He then eventually opened (the still dearly-missed) Supervillain Sandwiches in downtown Bend.
Costello and Soto seemed to have almost met by fate. "I always loved cooking and mostly putting together dinner parties for our friends and family," says Costello. "Chef Soto catered our son's birthday when he owned Supervillain Sandwiches. We got talking about food and events and I found out he was an executive chef at Deschutes Brewery in the 2000s, worked at Salishan resort, Skamania Lodge and owned Green Spoon in Walla Walla. Together, we started catering private events, luncheons, weddings and the word started spreading. In 2014, we found the perfect commercial kitchen and almost a year later we decided that we should open it to the public."
My dining guest and I tried the chicken shawarma and the mac & cheese, both of which exceeded expectations. The shawarma didn't try to delve too deeply into its Middle Eastern heritage, as the grilled chicken breast was lightly seasoned. Combined with the shredded lettuce, fresh tomato, English cucumber, red onion and the deliciously subtle yogurt-garlic sauce, the shawarma constantly revealed new layers to its flavor. With the warm and extremely fresh flat bread, the bouquet of ingredients almost melted in my mouth.
The mac & cheese was so wonderfully light that it put most other pasta dishes to shame. As tasty and comforting as mac & cheese normally is, most recipes sit in the belly like a gut bomb. In this case, the melted cheese was (again) just light enough to make every bite one to fight over, while also not feeling like a nap was in order. The side salad came with a balsamic-mustard dressing that made one or two inappropriate (and delighted) moans come from our table.
Right now, Bowtie's menu consists of mostly soups, salads and sandwiches, along with a few entrees and specials to keep things fresh—but that will change sooner rather than later. Costello says: "We are working to expand our catering services by collaborating with places like River Run at Eagle Crest, White Water Taphouse, Sip Wine Bar, where we provide course dinner for various occasions like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, beer pairings etc. and hopefully in the near future, a second, more central cafe location. We recently added beef and salmon burgers with house-cut fries. Plus, all of our breads are made fresh every morning, we roast our own meats and make our dressings from scratch."
From what we've already seen from their spot in the strip mall, a centralized location will definitely be a welcome addition to Bend's culinary—and cultural—scene.
61147 S Hwy 97, Bend